Participants in a previous Ohio River Challenge

Submitted Photo

A paddling event called the Ohio River Challenge will launch in June in partnership with many local and regional groups playing a part in helping the Ohio River Way group get their start on a 250-mile journey.

The launch is after extensive planning and investment in eco-toursim and adventure-tourism of the region, which has been equally embraced by the City of Portsmouth, Scioto County Commissioners and many regional non-profits.

Eco-Tourism is having a boom, with more families taking to the wilderness and outdoors to explore and spend time with loved ones post pandemic. Scioto County, and the region as a whole, has been embracing these practices and moving to develop future opportunities. Some of these endeavors have included advancements made to Shawnee State Park, Brush Creek, the pump track, splashpad, SOMBA mountain bike paths, Connex events, multi-use paths, kayak launches, and more.

The upcoming launch features two key components, including a major launch by Ohio River Way and a side launch by Portsmouth’s Connex group.

The paddle is in its third trip and will take journeyers to ten different Ohio River communities to learn and network. Those towns include Portsmouth, Vanceburg, Maysville, Augusta, Thomas More, Cincinnati, Rising Sun, Vevay, Madison, Westport, and Louisville. The journey will have paddlers on the water between June 2 and June 11.

“We expect 19 people in any given segment to be paddling in our two 30-foot voyager canoes,” Chairman Brewster Rhoads for Ohio River Way said. “We paddle early in the morning to get ahead of the wind that comes later in the day and do an average of about 25 to 28 miles a day and stop several places along the route before ending in a different community each night with a catered dinner or restaurant with public officials to highlight the amenities in each town. It is a great way to promote what these towns are doing. It is a way, really, to highlight the access these Ohio River towns have.”

Rhoads is passionate about the group’s mission and says he isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

“The Ohio River Way’s goal is to promote recreational opportunities in towns and celebrate the Ohio River way of life,” Rhoads said. “We do that with partner organizations that include most of the towns along the route. We’re designed to help the folks working to promote outdoor recreation along these 250 miles, because we’re a really great regional, and national, really, destination.”

While the Ohio River Challenge launch will feature community members and regional leaders on a mission to paddle from Portsmouth to Louisville, Connex will send dozens of recreational paddlers alongside them from Portsmouth to the Shawnee Marina.

Several locals will be forming the parade of paddlers to send off the Ohio River Challenge crew, which has been organized by Wendi Waugh and Connex.

“I am super excited about the launch of the Ohio River Challenge on Friday June 2nd at 9am. This year is special because the public will have the opportunity to float with the voyager canoes to the newly developed Shawnee Ohio River Campground—about six miles down river from the start of the paddle at Court Street Landing,” Waugh said. “Connex is partnering to host this launch with the City of Portsmouth, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Portsmouth Visitor’s Center, Shawnee State University, and Moon Doggie Livery. Entertainment will be provided by Steve Free and coffee will be available from the Slow Drip Coffee Truck. This event is designed to highlight the Ohio River as a corridor or ‘trail’ that others can tackle sections or plan a similar trip. The Ohio River Way is really a river-trail and Portsmouth is the beginning section of the trail. Connex believes this designation will help grow tourism in the area.”

Portsmouth Councilman and Mayor Sean Dunne will be participating in the endeavor after a partial paddle last year. Last year’s launch had Dunne traveling from Portsmouth to Cincinnati. This year, he is making the second half of the trip, launching in Cincinnati and ending in Louisville.

Additionally, Dunne has been working with community partners to host paddling events on the river leading up to the launch, in hopes of easing hesitations about safety on the river water.

“We had Shawnee State sociology major Jodie Kouns taking charge on several opportunities. We received a grant from Burners Without Boarders for $1,500 for paddling equipment to do some really cool things,” Dunne said. “Based on my experience last summer, I realized how great a bonding experience it is to be in a canoe like that. So, we’ve had a purposefully diverse group of people take part in paddling events. We chose people from different backgrounds, people in the recovery community, and people from all walks of life to have fun. We just broke down hesitations of accessing the river, whether that is it being too dangerous or too dirty. It is only part of a series of things Jodi has worked on as part of those myths.”

Dunne has also been using the opportunities to train for his upcoming trip with the group.

“I am really looking forward to it,” Dunne said. “It really was a highlight to my summer. I had never really done it before, and it was just a really great group of people. It is fun and really gives a greater appreciation of the river and the cities along it. I liked it so much that I am joining them to take part in the second half.”

Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved